Published by Picador
Stories are king in this darkly delightful tale from journalist David Whitehouse. His second novel (his first, Bed, was published in 2012), starts at the end.
Nearly-teenager Bobby Nusku and single mother Val and her daugher Rosa are surrounded by police on a cliff edge in a stolen mobile library.
Misfit Bobby has run away from his dad and her girlfriend and is struggling to come to terms with his mother’s absence.
Val provides a comforting mother figure, who he has strong feelings for. Hiding from the police, the trio meet a tall and mysterious traveller called Joe, who has a wild temper, but who completes their makeshift family.
As they travel north in search of a crumbling Scottish mansion with a private zoo that Joe remembers from his childhood, Bobby and Rosa read their way through the library’s collection of books – literary references abound – and fantasy starts to blur with fiction.
Whitehouse eloquently evokes Bobby’s adolescent angst, with all the jealousy and rage it entails, but his obvious fascination with stories is laboured.
The book’s more violent scenes sit uncomfortably against the saccharin love-fest between the four main characters.
Still, a tale that will haunt right up until it’s clever conclusion.